Scores of protesters were injured in clashes in Kashmir on Monday, triggered by rumours that the Supreme Court was hearing petitions challenging Article 35A, which defines the State subject laws.

The rumours were fuelled by a fresh petition submitted by a right-wing activist, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, before the court on Monday, which was listed for admission in the afternoon. The court adjourned the petition.

The confusion, however, sparked spontaneous protests and shutdown in large parts of the Valley. Markets were closed, schools shut and public transport halted in all districts, including Srinagar.

Student participation

Protesters clashed with security forces in Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Julgam and Baramulla. Students of many colleges joined the protests. Scores of protesters were hit by pellets in the clashes. Protests also erupted on college campuses in south Kashmir.

The police issued repeated clarifications but failed to control the situation till noon. “We will investigate all these cases of rumour-mongering and deal with the culprits strictly,” Additional Director-General of Police Muneer Khan said.

“The feeling of the people with regard to the State subject laws is strong. Spontaneous reactions from the masses should be an eye-opener for the authorities. No tampering and mischief with the law will be tolerated,” said Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

The petitions challenging the Article are listed for August 31.

State to defend

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government, which is yet to file a counter-affidavit before the Supreme Court, said it would defend the special status.

Without referring to the filing of the counter-affidavit prepared by former Advocate-General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, Abdul Majeed Bhat, Secretary, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, said a detailed report was in the process of being finalised and would be placed before the court.

“The government will defend the Article fully,” Mr. Bhat said.

Advocate-General D.C. Raina said that there was no change in the government’s stand on this case.

The Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference held meetings over the issue.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti held a meeting with her party leaders.

“The meeting detailed discussions over the party’s forthcoming strategy to defend Article 35A and safeguard the State’s unique position,” said PDP spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir. The party has decided that senior party leader and MP Muzaffar Hussain Beigh will defend the case in the Supreme Court.

Former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium will represent the NC’s intervention plea.

“The party will fight the battle to uphold the State’s political identity and rights at all costs,” said NC chairman Farooq Abdullah.

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